Where Everybody Knows Your NameMar 01, 2019 ● By Rachael Beaird
Although this local couple’s destination for dining and drinks has barely been open a year, it has already made itself a household name for locals and has racked up dozens of excellent reviews online. But, what really sets the married couple and business owners apart is their friendly approach and love for their community.
Mr. and Mrs. Alford were both born and raised in the Dallas area. They actually met in the seventh grade when a young Liz asked Ryan on a date, only to be turned down. Luckily, they reconnected in their early twenties, as they were both bartenders and ran in similar circles. The two have now been married almost 12 years.
They had been dreaming of opening their own bar for nearly a decade, and, finally, two years ago, they decided to put the pen to paper and put their words into action. “Every bartender wants to open their own bar. It is kind of the dream. So, finally, we started seriously talking about it and trying to put together a business model of what we thought would work,” Mr. Alford says. “We were ready to be able to create our own culture and control our environment.” And, Frisco turned out to be just the place the couple had been searching for to make their business dream a reality!
After the decision to take the leap and move forward with plans was made, Mr. and Mrs. Alford each left their jobs and devoted all of their time and resources into developing their own unique place. Living in Little Elm, they knew they wanted the bar to be somewhere close enough that they could be there quickly. After six months of shopping around with a realtor, they landed on 8898 Coleman Boulevard. “We worked with a great realtor who went above and beyond for us, but we really lucked out with this location,” Mrs. Alford says. “There used to be an upscale Cajun place here, and we had some pretty great bones to work with when planning our layout.”
Just outside the entrance to First Round is an enclosed dog-friendly patio with access to the bar via a garage door that is open whenever the unpredictable Texas weather permits. Inside, the bar spans the wall with stools lined up, as well as high-top tables scattered around and booths lining the back wall. Locals from every generation can be found gathered around the pool table, dart board or the old-fashioned arcade game. And of course, from any seat in the house, you have a great view of a television to watch whatever important game is on. The Alfords’ food menu offers bar classics like nachos and fried mushrooms, but Mr. Alford, the creative chef behind many of the popular menu items, even whips up foods like “Mini Montes” – Monte Cristo empanadas served with powdered sugar and raspberry sauce. He takes the art of bar food to a whole new level! “In creating our menu, we were very conscientious of the fact that just because some people like to go drink somewhere, it does not mean they also like to eat there. This is a place where you can both start and end the night,” Mr. Alford says. With every new menu item Mr. Alford carefully crafts, his passion for serving others is only that much more obvious.
Mr. and Mrs. Alford each have sons who help around the establishment, making everyone feel even more like family. In addition to steady foot traffic from people visiting the square, First Round also sees a lot of regulars from the apartment complex above them, The Plaza at Frisco Square. Although some of the residents were initially apprehensive at the thought of another bar opening on the block, once they came in and saw that First Round was a friendly neighborhood spot where you could come hang out, as opposed to a rowdy nightclub, those people became not only regulars, but friends. “One of the things that has actually been most rewarding here in Frisco is the people we have met. I love bartending. I love talking to people … getting to know them and their stories is really my favorite part of the job,” Mr. Alford says. “It very much matters to build a rapport with customers, especially your regulars! You want to share your personality and get to know them.”
On the rare occasion that the Alfords get a little time off, you can find Mrs. Alford practicing agility with any of their many adorable dogs and Mr. Alford playing softball with a local league (which was very supportive of his decision to start spending most of his time working to make First Round a success). But, a majority of the time, the Alfords will be happily waiting at First Round, ready to welcome you … probably by name.